Charlene Gangl will be staying in Pratt as part of a year-long study abroad experience from Austria.
Charlene Gangl, a junior at Pratt High School, came to town two weeks ago as an exchange student from Austria. She is staying with Denise Loganbill and family until her study abroad program ends next June.
Having joined the girls tennis team, Gangl said her main goals while in America include making friends, having new experiences and becoming a more independent person.
Loganbill, athletic secretary and bookkeeper at USD 382, will be hosting Gangl throughout her stay in Pratt. She said this is the fourth time her family has hosted a foreign exchange student, but the first time with a student from Austria. In past years they have welcomed students from Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and Japan, Loganbill said.
“We were asked [to host] and we felt it a good idea,” Loganbill said. “It’s been three years since we hosted the last one but we decided to go ahead and try it again this year.”
This particular exchange program is through AFS Intercultural Programs, where students from the U.S. and other countries can study-abroad.
“Basically, you provide them room and board, include them in your family—make them part of your family as much as you can and encourage them in school,” Loganbill said. “My favorite part is getting to know kids from different countries and what their lifestyles, likes, dislikes, and their family situations are.”
The hard part sometimes, Loganbill said, is making sure the exchange students get fully-acclimated and comfortable within the host family since the exchange program is often a semester or a year long.
Gangl said she has always been inspired by the idea of the “American Dream” which prompted her to look at different study-abroad options.
“I always was just amazed by the U.S. so I had the dream to do an exchange year here,” Gangl said. “I thought it would be more different but it’s not actually that different from Austria. Maybe it’s because I already know how the American lifestyle is, so I’m not that surprised.”
At this point in time, Gangl said she is enjoying American culture and does not miss very much from Austria yet, but she said maybe after a few months she will start to miss the small things like foods from back home.
While America has not quite been “culture shock” for Gangl, she said there have been a few things that surprised her, including how school is set up differently here, as well as how houses and businesses are arranged in blocks rather than being packed really close together.
“The first day I was really surprised because the breaks, and the rules, and the times are very different—and of course—you can choose your classes here. That’s not anything you can do in Austria,” Gangl said. “I guess my school was a bit more non-strict but my school is pretty easy in Austria.”
Though the official language in Austria is German, Gangl said most kids in Austria begin learning English in primary school to achieve proficiency or fluency easier.
Gangl said her parents are supportive of her choosing to study abroad but they miss her a lot while she is away.
“Usually we [my family] go once a year or every two years to the Philippines—I’m half Filipino so we go and visit our family there,” Gangl said. “The Philippines is like a real culture-shock when you’re there but I always just love the contrast of it with my normal life in Austria, so I guess that’s also a reason why I wanted to come to the United States.”
American candies— chocolates in particular— are Gangl’s favorite so far among all of the foods she has tried in her time in Pratt.
“The students in Austria, we all talk about American candy because you have so many options here,” Gangl said.
Once she graduates high school, Gangl plans to attend school in Austria to pursue a business-related degree to possibly become a marketing manager.